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Israel has vaccinated the most people per capita against COVID-19. Is it sustainable?

As many countries began their COVID-19 vaccination rollouts last month, one country quickly charged ahead of the pack: Israel. The Middle Eastern nation is now the world's top vaccinator per capita, already inoculating more than 1.5 million people, or nearly 20 percent of its total population. But as it faces a growing number of COVID-19 cases, can the country keep up its lead? Ivette Feliciano reports.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    When it comes to vaccinations per capita around the world, the small nation of Israel has taken the lead — inoculating more than 1.5 million people. But can the country keep this pace? Ivette Feliciano has the story.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    It's Monday in Tel Aviv and a medical compound setup for COVID-19 vaccinations has hundreds waiting to get their first dose.

  • Dr. Ronni Gamzu:

    We are doing that in a pace of around 5 to 7,000 a day here in this huge operation.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    This pace means more than 19 percent of the population has been vaccinated since mid-December… ten times more than in the U.S. and the most so far in the world.

    Medical workers and the elderly come first but given the country's relatively liberal approach to giving vaccines, even younger Israelis are waiting in line.

    The country of about nine million was also quick to sign deals with pharmaceutical companies, covering about 75 percent of its population.

    And when it comes to delivery, Israel has taken advantage of its small size.

    Uri Gat-Palash heads the distribution company, SLE.

  • Uri Gat-Palash:

    We do the division of the Pfizer packs which come in 195 vials, we divide them to smaller packs of 10, 15 and 50 vials so it can be shipped even to very small point of vaccination and by doing so, we avoid unnecessary waste of vaccines.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    But the speed of distribution has the country burning through its supply. And a surge in new cases means the goal to get the whole country immunized by spring might be slipping away.

    Human rights observers have been urging Israel to also provide vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but it's unclear if that will happen.

    As pressure grows over a dwindling supply of vaccines, the government is once again turning to the negotiating table, this time to get more deliveries sooner.

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